Following from my basil flavoured post yesterday evening I thought I’d do a quick write up of one of my favourite cocktails to play around with variations of. For those of you that don’t spend as much time with your nose in a cocktail book as I do, quite a lot of cocktails you see on cocktail menus are variations on a theme. If you take the base of ‘spirit, sugar, bitters’ found in an old fashioned, or ‘spirit, vermouth, bitters’ found in a Manhattan you can make an awful lot of other drinks. The sidecar, in turn, with the combination of strong, sour and sweet at roughly 2:1:1 is strikingly similar to the daiquiri and margarita which are all types of ‘sour’ – the overarching term for this type of drink.
The traditional sidecar is generally written as using cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. People bicker over the correct proportions to use, particularly if you go back far enough to look at the various people that claim to have invented it. The generally accepted origin points to Paris soon after the end of World War 1 but as is often the case with these things it seems that nobody can quite agree. My usual proportions have Cognac, Cointreau and Lemon Juice in 4:2:2 (usually 50ml, 25ml, 25ml). Shaken with ice and double strained to ensure a crystal clear, beautifully refreshing and sharp drink. A neat orange twist is my preferred garnish.
Now we’ve got the initial recipe out the way (which if you haven’t ever tried, please do – because it is an absolute classic and will almost definitely become a favourite) we can have some fun with variations. Varying ingredients from a classic cocktail recipe is one of the absolute best ways to learn about different spirits and probably one of the ones that has the biggest safety net if done carefully. The way I always went about varying ingredients when i started out making cocktails was to take one at a time. Take the cognac for example, and swap it out for Rye – did it work? did it improve it? Take the lemon juice and make it lime instead: what was that like? If you change too much at once it makes it trickier to work out what changes have had what impact on the end product.
WIthout further ado, here are a few of my favourite variations on the time-honoured sidecar.
Bourbon and Basil Sidecar
20ml Lemon Juice
5ml Sugar Syrup
4 Basil Leaves
Muddle the basil leaves with the spirit, shake with ice and strain into coupe. Garnish with basil sprigs.
50ml Gin (Hendricks or Plymouth are my preferences)
25ml Cointreau / Triple Sec
15-20ml Lime Juice (depending on the sharpness you’re aiming for)
(optional) 1 Barspoon of sugar syrup if desired
Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with lime wheel.
50ml Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum
20ml Lemon Juice
Shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe. No garnish for this one, let the fine spirit speak for itself.
25ml Light rum
25ml Triple sec
15ml Lime juice
Shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe. Lime wheel or twist for garnish
Between the Sheets
25ml Aged dark rum / Light rum
25ml Lemon Juice
Use dark rum here for a sweeter, richer drink than the original sidecar, or light rum for a similar experience to the Boston Sidecar, maintaining the crisp refreshing nature of the original drink. Shake and strain into chilled coupe and add a sugar rim if you enjoy a sweeter drink. A great example of what varying even half a measure of the main spirit can do to the end drink. As you get more confident with your ingredients variations can be a source of excellent drinks and a lot of fun and education.